Interview : Teach Grant, star of IT: Chapter Two

One of the standout characters in Stephen King’s “IT”, whether you like him or not, is Henry Bowers, the local bully and tormenter of the Losers’ Club. Bowers and his crew take particular pleasure in the suffering of others, getting a rise out of their fear. Of course this is a direct correlation of his treatment at home, with Henry’s father being a particularly nasty parental figure and hence a bad influence.

As we all saw in “IT: Chapter One”, Bowers (played by Nicholas Hamilton) has a breed of aggression makes him a prime target of Pennywise the Clown, and consequently sees him murder his own father and take on the Losers’ Club in a scene-stealing battle at the end of the film, while they challenge Pennywise. While his fate is unknown as he falls down a well in the Neibolt House, those that have read the book will know that Bowers survives the fall, and is back in a capacity that no one could expect.

Teach Grant plays the adult version of Henry Bowers, picking up his story 27 years later, along with the rest of the Losers’ Club. You’ll have to watch “IT: Chapter Two” to find out what happens next, but you won’t want to miss it as Bowers has quite an intriguing and edge-of-your-seat narrative that adds a lot to the film.

Grant is known for his career in TV, starring in such series’ as “Van Helsing”, “Supernatural”, “Rush”, “The Flash”, “Lucifer”, “Strange Empire” and so many more. The Canadian actor spoke to Moviehole about “IT: Chapter Two” and his thoughts on Pennywise, Henry Bowers and working with the incredible cast!

Congratulations on “IT: Chapter Two”! As a big fan of horror films and the book, I’m particularly excited about the film. No doubt those who aren’t familiar with Stephen King’s novel wouldn’t expect Henry Bowers to be back in the capacity that he is.  Had you read the book before getting the role?

It was tempting…I had seen the mini-series back in the early nineties and enjoyed it, but I had not read the book. It was something that I talked to Andy about before shooting and ultimately decided against it. This is because I felt that I might overload my “play” with elements from the book that didn’t exist in our story, which can be problematic. Besides there was so much to go on from the scripts of both Chapter One and Two that I felt I had everything I needed. Now that it’s all over with I’m pretty keen to order up a copy and dig in.

Henry Bowers is an interesting character, and his childhood no doubt played a large part in how he was shaped as both a child and in his adult years. Did you work much with Nicholas Hamilton on the character development?

I did and I didn’t. We never really talked about it, but I watched and studied him in Chapter One and it was interesting as a process, kind of like going backwards in a way because he’d already fleshed out the character, so I had to adopt some of those “isms” and finalities into Henry 2.0. There was a thing he did when his switch was flipping, almost like an expression between wonder and struggling to understand what was happening, something that I used as early as in my audition. His journey is something that I understand and it’s something that I am attracted to. The idea that bullies or restless, violent kids are created, not born and that made him susceptible to Pennywise’s coercion. His father abused him and his father was likely abused by his own father and it’s a terrible, viscous cycle, rounding about from victim to oppressor over and over again. Ultimately the 27 years between Chapter One and Chapter Two shaped out to be a period of erosion for Henry, in both memory and spirit. When we meet him he’s a broken shell of a human, a kid denied the opportunity to actually grow up, soon to be released as a wild teenager in a man’s body. When I discovered that, I was like, OK, I’m going to build from here.

Was it difficult to play Henry Bowers in comparison to other roles you’ve been in?

No. In fact, it’s in the far reaching extremes that I’m most comfortable. Those days are taxing for sure, but I actually get off on it. There is something about the lawlessness of a character like this that gets me stoked, because you can almost do anything and things just happen that you didn’t consider because in a sense you’ve given up control. To me, playing someone like Henry is likely my best casting.

How did you unwind at the end of a day’s filming?

Typically that would depend if we were working the next day and what call time was. If I did have to get up early I’d likely just have a greasy burger and fries, or if the next day was clear, I might have a couple beers. If not, we were shooting during the US Open and I would have tried to catch a match on TV.

How did you find working with Andy Muschietti?

Fun, playful and unpredictable. Andy likes to bring a grab bag into the edit so you have to be prepared to do things a number of drastically different ways so when I actually saw the film I had no idea which version of Henry he was going to use.  I’d never really gone at it like that before, usually we look to control our character arc a bit more, but with Andy, I was like, I dunno, just trusted him for the creative madman that he is. Whatever it was, I was like, OK, let’s do that. The whole movie was a bit like that for me, about trust and letting go of control. I think Andy is one of those people who really, truly loves being in the chair and he’s infectious to everyone around him. I’d have to say, IT2 was one of the most enjoyable sets I’ve ever been on, if not the very pinnacle.

The cast of “IT: Chapter Two” is quite spectacular – how did you find working with the group? And Bill Skarsgard when he’s in costume as Pennywise?

Yeah, the cast is pretty epic and I wish I had more time with many of them both on and off screen. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, or for readers who haven’t, without too much of a spoiler, Henry kind of has his own line. I obviously interact with the cast, but I don’t want to ruin anyone’s first viewing by saying with whom, because fans of the book will be able to do the math.

Any cool or spooky stories from set?

Yes, I had to duck out of a shot and take a knee because I nearly choked myself out. What I can say is that Henry has a moment where he is likely in a lot of pain and unable to breath. In this case I had no choice but to look downward for a good long while and on one take I felt my lips tingle and a familiar black tunnel start to form in my vision and I was like, I’m about to go out on my feet, so I took a knee to get safe and low until things cleared up. I just worked up a bit too much tension in my neck and constricted my own blood flow, basically gave myself a rear naked choke hold. Henry is intense that way.

Your TV credits in particular are extensive, and you’ve worked with some pretty amazing people! How did you find filming a full-length movie different to a TV episode?

I’ve done a number of 20 Million dollar movies that felt like TV episodes compared to IT2 -which by anyone’s standards is a mammoth production. With that said, we are in the golden age of television and some cable and streaming access shows are rapidly closing the gap. The difference is mostly time and resources. And on IT2 I (we) had ample time to prepare and they definitely had all the resources they needed, not to mention a shooting schedule that allowed us to shoot the hell of scenes. If Andy wanted to make the camera do a backflip he could have and if he wanted to try it with several different lenses on he could have done that too. Network Television is an entirely different story and in some ways it’s not even fair to compare. In terms of my process, I try not to let the size of the stage affect what it is I do. From character to character, high or low budget, I just want to dig as deep as I can and do something I haven’t done yet. One off guest starts can be fun or temporarily satisfying, but a long recurring or a full arc in film is where I feel I can actually sink my teeth and get something out if for myself.

What would you say are your career highlights?

Playing Henry is definitely a highlight for me, every actor wants to swing the bat and we all want our work to be seen by as many people as possible. This film has rewarded me with both of those things and I am extremely thankful.

“IT: Chapter Two” is in cinemas now!

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